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Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009


The 'Rocky' of Nanimwa, a boutique dairy and the drama debut of Arashi's Aiba

Now he's an actor and television personality, but 25 years ago Hidekazu Akai was known as the "Naniwa Rocky," a professional boxer from the Naniwa region of Osaka. Recently, the boxing club of Kinki University, where he made his reputation, was rocked by a scandal. Some of the members were arrested for beating and robbing people on the street, and the club closed down.

Akai wants to restore some honor to his alma mater, so he is returning to the ring. The 50-year-old lost 8 kg, quit smoking and drinking, and then started sparring with WBC Bantam weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa in the gymnasium of Naniwa High School, which Akai also attended. This grueling process of returning to pugilism in middle age is documented on "Boku to Kazoku no Koshiki Kiryoku" (The Official Record of Me and My Family; Fuji, Mon., 12:35 a.m.), which mostly shows Hasegawa making hamburger out of Akai, but the older man doesn't give up so easily. Japanese dairy farmers have been hit very hard recently by the rise in the cost of livestock feed, which mostly comes from the U.S. Those who allow their cows to graze haven't been affected by the feed crisis, but they tend to work on a much smaller scale, anyway.

One of these is Moriyuki Mitomo, who runs a dairy in Naka Shibetsu, Hokkaido. Mitomo, who is profiled on "Professional: Shigoto no Ryugi" (Professional: Methods for Work; NHK-G, Tues., 10 p.m.), leaves everything to nature and tends to eschew the kind of facilities that are considered indispensable in the dairy industry.

He only keeps about half the number of cows that the average farm in his vicinity keeps, and thus produces only about 30 percent of the milk that other farms produce. However, his profit margins are actually higher than those of more conventional dairy farms. Despite his success, he has no desire to expand. Arashi is supposedly being positioned by its talent agency Johnny's Jimusho to take over SMAP's role as Japan's number one boy band, and member Masaki Aiba, who has never starred in his own drama series before, finally gets the chance in "My Girl," which starts this week (Asahi, Fri., 11:15 p.m.).

Aiba plays Masamune, who works as an assistant in a photography studio. Masamune still carries a torch for Yoko (Yuka), who broke up with him about six years ago.

Out of the blue one day, Masamune receives a message informing him that Yoko has died. Heartbroken, he goes to her old apartment and there meets a five-year-old girl named Koharu. He is shocked to learn that Koharu is Yoko's daughter, and that Yoko did not have any boyfriends after she left Masamune. That can only mean one thing . . .

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